One of my favorite of Jonathan Revere’s many stories went something like this: He was active in the theatre for many years. Late on the night of dress rehearsal of one of the plays he was in, he decided to wait until he got home to get out of costume. The costume was complicated, he was tired and it was close to midnight. At the time he was driving a bright red car he called Redford. As he drove up the hill leading out of Vineyard Haven he saw two young girls hitchhiking and pulled over to the side of the road to pick them up, forgetting that he was still in costume. The play he was in was Frankenstein. He was acting the part of the monster. Fangs protruded from his mouth, bloody stitches ran across his forehead and down his cheek, electrodes stuck out of the top of his head, furry wigs with claws covered his hands, the whole horror scene. The girls rushed over to the car, opened the door, the dome light went on — and they screamed. I heard him tell this story a half-dozen times and I retold it another half-hundred times.
It was Jonathan who suggested that I write mysteries rather than try for great literary works when I gave in to a bed and breakfast guest’s insistence that I go back to school for my MFA in creative writing, “More fun,” he told me. Then when I needed an appropriate name for my protagonist, Jonathan said, “Exit 28 on the Connecticut Turnpike is Trumbull. A good strong name.” And so my sleuth became Victoria Trumbull. For my first half dozen books Jonathan helped me over hurdles and writer’s block by saying, “Have you thought of . . . ?” followed by some wildly imaginative scene, and that would do it. His Frankenstein story got incorporated into one of my books. How could I not use it.
His wit was legendary. He described Linda Marinelli, the renowned Oak Bluffs selectman, as “a rhinestone in the rough,” the hairdo of one of the Island’s lawyers as, “what you get when you combine Viagra with Rogaine.”
Together, Jonathan and I produced almost 300 shows for MVTV, the Vineyard’s Community Access Television. He directed, videotaped, edited, found music for and produced interviews that I did for two shows, one a 30-minute program he called On Island Writing, and the other a year-long series of 15-minute video snapshots he called Our Town: West Tisbury, 2007. The latter series began with winding the town clock and shows included an interview with shellfish constable Tom Osmers off Sepiessa on a blustery February day. The temperature was 18 degrees, the wind howled, Tisbury Great Pond was frozen hard as far as we could see, and Jonathan was concerned that his camera would freeze up. We refused Tom’s invitation to do the interview out on the ice, Jonathan protested that the camera was too valuable. The 15 minutes went by. With relief Jonathan signaled the time. We could go home. Get warm. But Tom, out on the ice and buffeted by the wind, held up a gloved hand. “I haven’t finished yet.” So the camera rolled on. As Jonathan was putting his equipment away, Tom headed toward the Quansoo opening across the ice. “We’ve filmed the last of Tom Osmers,” said Jonathan as Tom faded from sight.
The programs included interviews with our town’s EMTs, with Katherine Long and Tom Vogel and their chickens, with police chief Beth Toomey, with the Glass Works, the Whitings Jack Russells, miniature horses, John Alley’s town history — an amazing record of almost 150 shows of our town’s people and activities in the year 2007.
Jonathan went on to become an important part of MVTV’s operations. As a board member he was instrumental in getting a new building for the television station. Right up until the time he was airlifted off Island, he continued to videotape Island meetings of every description.
He was intensely proud of our town and wanted to do all he could to contribute to it. He was active in politics and ran for selectman several times and for assessor once. He didn’t win, chiefly because he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought, popular or not. His last run for office was as a member of the West Tisbury finance committee, one of our town’s most important bodies. He won.
Cynthia Riggs Attebery is an author who lives in West Tisbury.